Guest blogger: Bob Silver '62, SM ’63
I was admitted to the MIT class of 1962 in spring of 1958 and began school in September 1958. I was 16 years old and about 200 miles from home.
Thus I began my academic adventure to the finest engineering school in the world. I thought I would become a physicist and somehow as the first year progressed I decided to be more “practical” and select electrical engineering as my major. The program admitted a few hundred applicants but only 100 degrees were granted in this major each year, so the competition was enormous.
I selected the Cooperative EE Program in the later part of my second year, which meant that I was admitted to a combined SB/SM degree program, which took five years to complete. During the last three years, I spent a total of 15 months at my sponsoring company (IBM). I actually received both degrees in June 1963 although I was in the class 0f 1962.
I missed the 25th- and 50th-year MIT reunions. When I received notice of the 55th year reunion event, I decided it was now or never. I asked my life partner to attend with me and we planned a two-week trip, with the second week dedicated to visiting relatives in the New England area.
Returning to Cambridge, Mass., after 55 years was quite an experience. Most of the areas surrounding MIT when I attended were pretty much abandoned portions of the city or old warehouses. Cambridge is now vibrant, bustling with new life and an intensity that is amazing. Biotech companies in newly constructed buildings surround much of the east campus.
I had a chance to attend lectures during the visit. It was as though I was transported back in time 59 years and into my early freshman days. I immediately became absorbed in the first lecture on the successful detection of gravitational waves, whose existence was predicted by Einstein a hundred years ago. I found a mathematical error on one of the distinguished speaker’s slides and raised the issue during the question and answer period following the lecture. I was back to my old ways challenging things that didn’t seem correct to me. I was afraid my partner was going to slide under the table and out of sight when I raised the issue, but she just responded playfully that she wished she had raised the issue first.
I had an opportunity to reconnect with several of my classmates including my junior year summer roommate. I also had an opportunity to make new friends with classmates of other majors. I even had a chance to take an amphibious vehicle ride and cruise of the Charles River; 55 years ago it was the most polluted river in the USA and now it is the cleanest.
The overall feeling of returning to MIT and enormous pride in this institution is amazing. I am truly thankful to have had classmates of such intellectual curiosity and capability, along with the amazing education we received. The staff was the finest in the world with many Nobel prize winners. We were taught to think and not just memorize facts and equations.
The goal, which was achieved, was to launch another class of graduates who could solve issues and truly advance the fields in which they studied.